Policy paper

2010 to 2015 government policy: marine fisheries

Updated 8 May 2015

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

This is a copy of a document that stated a policy of the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government. The previous URL of this page was https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/reforming-and-managing-marine-fisheries-for-a-prosperous-fishing-industry-and-a-healthy-marine-environment. Current policies can be found at the GOV.UK policies list.


Fishing provides billions of people with food, jobs and livelihoods. The marine environment must be managed effectively to support a healthy marine ecosystem and fish stocks.

The World Bank estimates that mismanagement of fisheries costs countries $50 billion a year. This includes $10 to $24 billion worth of fish that are caught illegally worldwide, depriving communities of income, food and jobs.

EU fisheries, and EU interests in global fisheries, are managed through the current Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). After over three years of negotiations, in which the UK took the lead to secure the fundamental reform of the CFP, a new CFP came into force on 1 January 2014.

It includes commitments to eliminate discards and decentralise decision making away from Brussels. It also has legally binding requirements to set fishing rates at sustainable levels. With decentralised decision making, member states can work together to agree which detailed measures are appropriate for their shared fisheries.


In Europe

We are:

We are also:

  • making sure that the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund will help implement the new CFP
  • managing fish stocks, by negotiating at EU fisheries councils and through measures to control and reduce waste of fish (fish discards)
  • implementing the EU regulation to prevent the import of illegal, unregulated and unreported fish and fish products into the EU

In the UK

We are:

  • improving the way we manage fisheries, including publishing a register of fixed quota allocations
  • working with sea anglers to use better data on sea angling collected through the Sea Angling 2012 project
  • funding research projects and the Fisheries Science Partnership, so we have the data we need to manage fisheries well


We are:


Vessel licensing and enforcement

UK Fisheries Administrations have agreed a Concordat on the management of the UK’s fish quotas and licences. In England the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) is responsible for licensing fishing vessels, according to EU regulations.

The EU ‘control’ regulation ensures compliance with the rules of the CFP. It includes the use of vessel monitoring systems and electronic recording systems, as well as a range of other control requirements.

The MMO co-ordinates an enforcement programme, which involves monitoring, control and surveillance of sea fishing in British fishery limits around the coast of England and English vessels operating outside those waters. Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs) enforce their own byelaws in their districts.

The usual level of enforcement, including of IFCA byelaws, and spot checks is being maintained, despite a short term reduction in enforcement powers available to IFCA officers in the spring of 2015. The MMO is warranting a number of IFCA officers with relevant powers, so that they can continue to operate as normal, enforcing EU regulations relating to fisheries and marine conservation, as well as their own byelaws.

EU funding for fisheries

The European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) will operate from 2015 to 2020, replacing the current European Fisheries Fund.

The UK will concentrate on measures to reduce the amount of discarded fish. This includes providing funding for more selective catching gear and research to improve the sustainability of the fishing industry.

UK shell fisheries

Shellfish are both caught and cultivated in the UK. They are of great importance to our fishing industry and the aquaculture industry.

Scallop fisheries are one of the UK’s most valuable fisheries. The Scallop Fishing (England) Order 2012 came into force in October 2012 to safeguard stocks.

We used collected data to assess the status of the health of our scallop stocks using “Red Bag scheme”. Centre for Environmental, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) have produced a report outlining the findings and conclusions of the scheme. We are now looking at options for long term monitoring.

Brown crab and lobster fisheries are also amongst the most valuable fisheries in England. As quota stocks come under increasing pressure and more vessels catch crabs and lobsters, there are concerns about over-fishing, particularly of brown crabs.

Following the stock assessments in 2012, Cefas is finalising the second round of crab and lobster assessments and will be publishing more assessments soon. The assessments have been discussed with inshore fisheries and conservation authorities and stakeholders.

We, along with the devolved administrations, have drafted the UK’s multiannual national plan for aquaculture. This document sets out how the UK is responding to the main challenges which the aquaculture industry currently faces. It also outlines how European Maritime and Fisheries (EMFF) funds will help develop the sector under the reformed Common Fisheries Programme.

Centre for Environmental, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) has carried out crab and lobster assessments and will be publishing more assessments soon. The assessments are being discussed with inshore fisheries and conservation authorities at their quarterly committee meetings then with the wider fishing industry.

Who we’ve consulted

On 10 February 2015 we published a consultation about reducing latent capacity in the English inshore fleet.

On 23 January 2015 we published a consultation on the demersal landing obligation (discard ban) in England.

On 22 April 2014 we published a call for evidence on the conduct and operation of Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs). The first report on the work of IFCAs in the four years to 31 August 2014 has now been published.

On 31 March 2014 we launched a package of consultations linked to the reformed Common Fisheries Policy. These covered how we:

In 2012, we sought views on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund proposals.

In 2011, we consulted on the EC proposals to reform the CFP and the Common Organisation of the Markets (CMO) in fishery and aquaculture products.

We consulted on reform of domestic fisheries management arrangements in England in 2011. We also launched an industry discussion on the future of Seafish, which provides support to the seafood industry across the whole supply chain and is funded by a statutory levy. In February 2012 we published the response to the discussion setting out the next steps for Seafish. The discussion was informed by the Cleasby Review.

Bills and legislation

Legislation under the Common Fisheries Policy

European Council Regulation No. 1380/2013 introduced the reformed Common Fisheries Policy.

European Council Regulation No. 1342/2008 established a long-term plan for cod stocks. The objective of the plan is the recovery of cod stocks through various measures like restricting the number of days a vessel is permitted to fish. The Days at Sea Scheme is how we comply with this regulation in England. The EU cod plan is under review and how cod stocks are managed is likely to change. This will make sure that measures reflect regional nature of fisheries as set out in the reformed common fisheries policy.

European Council Regulation (EC) No 850/98 (as amended) protects fisheries resources through technical measures, like fishing gear specifications and restricted fishing areas. European Council Regulation 1224/2009 is known as the ‘Control regulation’ and ensures compliance with the CFP. Commission Regulation 404/2011 covers related implementing rules.

The Sea Fishing (Licences and Notices) (England) Regulations (2012) , which came into force in April 2012, enables electronic notification of variations to the licences of English fishing vessels.

The financial administrative penalties scheme operates under statutory instrument SI 2008 No. 984.

Council Regulation (EC) No 199/2008 deals with an EC framework to collect, manage and use data in the fisheries sector, and support for scientific advice on the CFP.

Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing

Council regulation (EC) No 1005/2008 aims to stop the import of IUU fishery products into the EU. Council regulation (EU) No 86/2010 amended Annex I to the 2008 regulation and Council regulation 468/2010 established an EU illegal, unreported and unregulated vessel list.


The Sea Fisheries (Shellfish) Act 1967 deals with establishing and improving commercial shellfisheries through a Several Order. It also covers preserving and improving wild shellfisheries that may be at risk of over-exploitation through a Regulating Order.

The Scallop Fishing (England) Order 2012 replaced the Scallop Fishing Order 2004.

The MMO has supporting information about regulations and legislation.

Who we’re working with

Devolved administrations

The devolved administrations manage fisheries in their own waters:

We work with them to agree a UK position for negotiations in the EU.

Delivery partners and research centres

The MMO is responsible for regulation and licensing of fishing in England.

Defra publishes a newsletter, ‘Fishing Focus’, to keep stakeholders up-to-date on marine fisheries and other marine issues.

Centre for Environmental, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), including the Fish Health Inspectorate, carry out research and monitoring of fish and shellfish stocks.

Seafish supports the seafood industry.

Inshore fisheries and conservation authorities are responsible for the sustainable management of inshore fisheries in their districts.

European and international organisations

The International Council for the Exploration of the Seas advises on the effects of human exploitation on marine ecosystems and provides fish stock assessments for EU fisheries negotiations.

Regional advisory councils involve fishing and environmental stakeholders in the management of the Common Fisheries Policy.

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna is responsible for conserving tuna and tuna-like species in the Atlantic Ocean and its adjacent seas.

Appendix 1: fisheries science partnership

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document. It was withdrawn on 3 February 2015 because the information was moved to Cefas pages.

We want to involve more fishermen in commissioning science for projects that will benefit the industry through improved fisheries data or stock assessments and through innovative ideas on gear technology.

To achieve these objectives, the programme will:

  • deliver demonstration projects that support implementation of Common Fisheries Policy reform, particularly on the landing obligation
  • provide information from commercial fishing catches on key stocks to supplement data sources traditionally used in ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Seas) assessments
  • investigate concerns raised by fishermen on scientific assessments or on fish stocks not currently assessed
  • investigate innovative scientific methods and/or more selective/environmentally friendly fishing methods
  • support the work of the Regional Advisory Councils, e.g. Northwestern Waters Regional Advice Council

The programme will mainly support projects in UK waters, focusing predominantly on the English fisheries and involve fishing vessels able to take part in the projects.

See reports of completed FSP projects.

Seeking project ideas for 2015 to 2016

We are inviting FSP project proposals for the next financial year, 2015 to 2016. Project ideas should be practical, able to deliver a real solution, come from fisherman and meet at least one of the FSP objectives above.

The FSP panel will be particularly interested to see proposals that will help the implementation of Common Fisheries Policy reform, especially innovative approaches to the forthcoming demersal landing obligation. Examples include, but are not restricted to:

  • mixed-fishery and regional approaches
  • selectivity improvements (including new gear)
  • discard-survivability studies
  • spatial adaptations
  • emerging issues in support of the Advisory Councils (ACs).

Project ideas need to be practical, able to deliver a real solution and be completed during 2015 to 2016.

Turning a proposal idea into a scientifically deliverable project is not always easy, so proposers may wish to contact our FSP Contracts Office who can refer applicants to a Cefas scientist for advice related to a particular idea.

A form (in Word format) to help proposers construct a suitable project by prompting the essential required details is available for downloading.

Please note: Submission of a project is not a guarantee that the idea will be funded. Further, all project ideas deemed suitable are then commissioned through a competitive process.

Ideas for proposals for projects must be submitted to the FSP Contracts Office by Friday 23 January 2015.

Once a project idea form is received at Cefas, a check will be done to see if all the details have been provided (locality, time of work, vessel size and type, gear etc.) after which the proposer may be contacted for further details. Those project ideas which are confirmed as suitable will then be subject to a competitive tender process with the projects Invitation to Tender being published on this website. Invitation to Tender documents will be available for downloading from this website along with copies of draft contract and terms and conditions, they can also be obtained from the address below.

Please note that there are strict deadlines for tender submissions.

FSP projects in 2014 to 2015 are as follows:

Project 40: Western Channel Sole and Plaice Beam Trawl Survey

Purpose: To extend the time series of surveys (started in 2003) in the western English Channel in order to provide information on the distribution patterns of sole, plaice and other commercial by-catch species; trends in abundance and the age composition of sole and plaice; and additional information on the by-catch of species such as cod.

Timing: September to October

Vessel: Carhelmar

Project 41: Area VII Haddock Discard Eliminations Using Technical Measures

Purpose: To develop gear technology solutions to minimise the capture of grades 4 and 5 haddock in the South West mixed otter trawl fishery and to collect supplementary observer data from the TR1 fleet.

Timing: September to October

Vessels: Our Olivia Belle

Project 42: Aligning Spurdog Management with the Landing Obligation under the Reformed Common Fisheries Policy

Purpose: The primary aim of this project will be obtaining the necessary regional and European involvement from various organisations, stakeholders groups and NGO’s for a UK-led initiative for the alignment of spurdog management measures in the Northeast Atlantic.

Timing: July to March 15

Contractor: NFFO Ltd

Project 43: North East Coast Study on the Survival of Discards

Purpose: To provide information on the potential survival of fish caught in trawl gears of vessels >10m with the aim of releasing alive and so inform whether they should be exempt from the landing obligation (discard ban).

Timing: July to Dec

Vessel: Emulator

Project 44: Maximising Economic Return for the Haddock Fishery by Selective Mesh Size in the Under 10m Gillnet Fleet

Purpose: This project will undertake a desk based study to focus on data collection and analysis to understand the selective and economic returns of gill nets in the South West.

Timing: July to March 15

Contractor: Cadgwith and Helford District Fishermens Society Ltd

Contact details

FSP Contract Office Cefas Pakefield Road Lowestoft, Suffolk NR33 0HT UK Tel: +44 (0)1502 527706 Email: michael.fox@cefas.co.uk, fsp@cefas.co.uk

Appendix 2: marine fisheries science

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

Defra funds and manages fisheries research and monitoring programmes to build a strong evidence base for current and future policies, nationally and internationally.

Defra’s marine research programme sets out the themes in the programme.

As part of our role in marine science, we co-ordinate fisheries research with other sponsors of scientific work in the UK and the EU, and with MariFish which co-ordinated European marine fisheries research programmes.

Find fisheries projects in the Marine Science Yearbooks 2006 to 2012.

Use the project codes in the yearbooks to search the science pages for more information.

Fisheries Science Partnership

Defra also funds the Fisheries Science Partnership, which aims to build strong working relationships between scientists and the fishing industry to improve fisheries data, stock assessments and generate innovative ideas.

Appendix 3: reforming the Common Fisheries Policy

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is the EU’s instrument for managing fisheries and aquaculture. It aims for an economically viable fishing industry that minimises impacts on the marine environment.

Under the previous CFP, the health of fish stocks and the profitability of fishing businesses deteriorated, while centralised bureaucracy increased.

The regulation on the reformed CFP came into force on 1 January 2014. This new CFP will radically transform fishing practices in Europe and includes the key UK government priorities of:

  • firm dates to ban fish discards
  • a legally binding commitment to fish at sustainable levels
  • decentralised decision making, allowing Member States to agree the measures appropriate to their fisheries

A ban on discarding in pelagic fisheries (such as mackerel and herring) started on 1 January 2015, with a further ban on discards in all other fisheries to start between 1 January 2016 and 2019.

The CFP also includes, for the first time, a legally binding commitment to fish at sustainable levels, achieving ‘maximum sustainable yield’ by 2015 where possible, and by 2020 at the latest. This will ensure that annual quotas will be underpinned by scientific advice, to achieve healthy fish stocks and a prosperous fishing industry.

The new laws will also allow countries to work together regionally to implement measures appropriate to their own fisheries, rather than be subject to detailed management from Brussels.

These measures and the work on domestic fisheries management reform will help make the whole EU fishing fleet economically sustainable.

For more information, see the European Commission’s website

Appendix 4: reducing discards

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

A ‘discard’ is any type of marine animal caught during fishing operations which is thrown back into the ocean, dead or alive. Discarding of dead and dying fish is a wasteful practice which is bad for fish stocks and the marine environment and costly for fishermen.

The reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) includes a commitment to firm dates to ban discards. This started on 1 January 2015 for pelagic fisheries (such as Herring and Mackerel), and is being rolled out to other fisheries by 2019. We are currently consulting on banning discards in demersal fisheries.

We are building on the success of past trials and discussions with industry to make sure that the move to the discard ban goes smoothly.

There are a number of reasons why discarding occurs. This includes:

  • fishermen accidently catching fish which they do not have quota for and are therefore unable to land and sell
  • catching fish which are damaged or less profitable
  • catching undersize fish which under the old CFP are not legally permitted to be landed and sold

Quota restrictions

The EU fish quota system protects fish stocks by setting limits on how much of a certain species fishing boats can land in ports. If fishermen run out of quota for one species, for example cod, they can continue to fish for other species but have to throw away all the cod they catch. These ‘over-quota’ discards are estimated to account for around 26% of discards (England and Wales 2008 to 2010).

Under the new CFP, quotas now apply to what is landed onshore rather than what is caught at sea.

High grading

High grading is where fishermen discard less valuable fish to get as much money as possible for their catches. A high grading ban is already enforced on all pelagic vessels.

The previous CFP had rules to stop fisherman targeting and selling small juvenile fish, called the minimum landing sizes technical rules. However, European fisheries contain a mix of species, and the right size net for one species might also catch smaller fish from another species.

Previously if fish below the minimum size were caught, they had to be discarded. Now, minimum landing sizes have become minimum conservation reference sizes. If quota species below the minimum conservation reference size are caught they must be brought ashore. They can be sold into the not for human consumption food chain, for example for bait, fishmeal and pharmaceuticals.

Market conditions

Some species will be discarded because they are not popular to eat and so unlikely to sell on the market. In 2008 to 2010 in England and Wales this accounted for an estimated 53% of discards.

By-catch of protected species

Species which are a priority for conservation (like whales and dolphins, seabirds and sharks species) may also be accidently caught by fishermen and have to be returned to the sea.

By-catch of seabed organisms

Some species (like starfish, seaweed, worms and anemones) which live on, in, or near the ocean floor are not intentionally caught by fishermen but may become tangled in fishing nets and discarded.

What we are doing about by-catch and discards

We’re working on several initiatives including:

Catch quota management

We started piloting fully documented ‘catch quotas’ in 2010. This is an alternative system of managing fish quotas.

Rather than counting catches brought ashore by fishing vessels, all catches of fish at sea are counted against the vessels’ quota allocation. The catches are documented using logbooks and checked by use of CCTV cameras.

Fishermen have to stop fishing when they reach their quota limit for any 1 quota stock.

Through the trials we aim to understand how this type of management system can reduce discards and encourage fishermen to fish more selectively. The results of the 2013 pilots for North Sea cod and Western Haddock have been very promising. Participants significantly reduced their levels of discards for the trial species but also other species caught. We are continuing the pilots in 2015.

More about catch quota management.

Fishing for the markets project

In the UK salmon, tuna, prawns, cod and haddock make up 65% of all seafood sold. We are working with Seafish to encourage people to eat fish from sustainable stocks including less popular fish to take the pressure off the popular ones.

The fishing for the markets project identified ways to improve the use and consumption of less popular species, which are considered sustainable but discarded because they lack markets. Seafish is working with the seafood industry to take forward the recommendations.

Appendix 5: managing marine fish stocks

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

To avoid overfishing, Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and stock recovery measures (such as limiting the amount of fish commercial fishermen can catch in certain areas) are agreed by EU Member States under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). This practice will continue under the reformed CFP.

Total Allowable Catches (TACs)

TACs limit the amount of fish which commercial fishermen can land in ports. They are agreed every December in the EU Fisheries Council.

Advice by fisheries scientists in the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) is used to help set TACs. They advise on appropriate catch levels to keep stocks sustainable.

Fisheries agreements are used when stocks are jointly managed by the EU and third countries. These detail how the stock will be shared. Agreements are in place with Norway, Iceland, the Faroes and Greenland.

The fishing opportunities for 2015 were agreed at December Council 2014. The EU regulation sets out 2015 fishing opportunities.

The Marine Management Organisation publishes UK Fisheries Statistics.

Stock recovery

We sometimes need to take extra measures to help certain fish stocks recover and stabilise their populations. This could be because of previous overfishing, high natural mortality (ie low numbers of fish surviving to a size where they are taken commercially) or environmental factors.

There has been a more positive trend in some stocks in recent years. Problems with some EU cod stocks continue and there are measures in place through the Cod Recovery Plan to halt and ultimately reverse this decline. These measures apply in the Irish Sea, North Sea (where the cod stock is improving), Eastern Channel and the West of Scotland.

Scientific evaluation of the performance of the Cod Plan has shown a number of problems with its design and how it has worked. We expect a new Cod Plan to be developed. Until then, the current plan has been amended allowing new rules to apply for the fixing of catch levels for 2013, and how many days at sea fishermen are allowed.

The EU also has recovery plans for:

General fisheries technical conservation rules

Fishing stocks are also protected by technical measures. Technical measures can be applied to decide where, when and how fishing can happen. This can include having restricted fishing areas and rules on what fishing gear boats can use.

An update of the regulations (Council Regulation 850/98 and related legislation) was proposed by the European Commission in 2014. If agreed, the new regulations will apply from 2016. Until then, the existing regulations will be amended. This will keep them compatible with landing obligations according to the timetable agreed under CFP reform.

Appendix 6: reforming domestic fisheries

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

Defra is reforming the management of domestic fisheries to place English inshore fisheries on a sustainable footing. This will give greater responsibility and flexibility to individual fishermen.

We’re currently consulting on how to deal with unused licences (known as latent capacity) in the 10 metre and under shellfish fleets.

We’re also exploring alternative ways of managing quota in the 10 metre and under and non-sector fleet.

We’re working with the New Under Tens Fishermen’s Association (NUTFA) to explore its proposal for an inshore producer organisation. We’re also working together to assess the level of support from industry for this.

Following consultation, it was clear that we should trial alternative management approaches before changing the current system. As part of this we piloted a community quota scheme. The information gathered through the pilot and other parallel work will inform future decisions.

Fixed quota allocation register

The fixed quota allocation register lists fishing vessel licence and entitlement holders of FQA units. The second phase of the register, published on 30 June 2014, lets FQA holders transfer their FQA units electronically, subject to quota management rules. This replaces the paper based system (FQA2).

The register was developed to provide greater transparency about who holds FQAs within the UK. It improves fisheries management by helping the industry to make better use of quota.

This register was agreed in a Concordat on the management of the UK’s fish quotas and licences.

Other work on domestic reform

We’re also running or supporting projects with members of the 10 metre and under fleet and organisations such as Seafish. The projects aim to increase understanding of the issues facing the inshore fleet and how sustainability can be improved, including:

You can find out more by emailing fisheriesreform@defra.gsi.gov.uk

Further information:

Appendix 7: sea angling

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

Recreational sea angling in England - from both boat and shore - is an important leisure activity enjoyed by over 800,000 people in England. It benefits local economies and supports many businesses, from bed and breakfasts to bait digging and tackle shops.

Sea Angling 2012 project

Despite being one of the country’s most popular sports, there was very little information on catches or the number of angling trips. The lack of data has meant that it is difficult for sea anglers and their representatives to have full input to inshore fisheries management.

The European Data Collection Framework and Control Regulation requires member states to collect and report data on recreational catches of certain species including bass, cod, and sharks: all important to anglers to give a clearer picture of how fishing activities are affecting the stocks.

Defra therefore funded the Sea Angling 2012 project – the biggest ever national survey of sea angling to find out how many people enjoy the sport, how many fish they catch, how many fish they return to the sea and how important the sport is to the country’s economy.

Sea Angling 2012 was carried out by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), and Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs).

The report was published in November 2013.

Sea anglers, policy makers and fisheries managers can now explore and interpret the data in the report.

IFCAs have a duty to balance the differing needs of people engaged in the exploitation of sea fisheries resources in their districts (within six nautical miles of the coast). Working together sea anglers, Defra and the IFCAs can use the data to improve fish stocks.

Sea bass

In March 2015 the European Commission implemented a 3 fish daily limit for bass for all recreational fishermen (both on the shore and in boats) as part of a package of measures being developed at EU level to address declining bass stocks.